Can I eat cheese rinds?
The short answer is: Yes, and no!
What we like to tell our customers is that most cheese rinds are edible, but they may not be exactly palatable! It’s all a matter of preference. Take a nibble of the rind, and if you like how it tastes, go right ahead and eat it. If you don’t, and the rind’s flavor or texture detracts from your overall enjoyment of the cheese, then feel free to follow your heart and leave it alone. The exception to this rule is if the cheese is coated with a substance generally not considered edible, such as cloth, wax, plastic, or bound by a strip of bark.
Many types of hard cheeses (especially ones that have been aged for a long time) have rinds that are very firm, very dry, or covered with a mould that might not be to your taste. For example, the rinds of Gruyere and Comté are generally not eaten.
That said, we definitely recommend trying the rinds of certain types of cheeses—for example, softer washed-rind cheeses like Epoisses, white bloomy rinds like Brie, and even soft leaf-wrapped cheeses like Banon. These rinds are meant to be eaten, as they are integral to the flavor and the overall experience of the cheese. Needless to say, the producer has taken great care in their development! However, if you don’t like how it tastes, don’t feel obligated to force yourself to enjoy it.
A Matter of Etiquette
If you encounter a cheese plate at a party or dinner, it’s considered polite to cut yourself a serving of cheese that includes a proportionate amount of rind. If you choose not to eat the rind, cut it off and leave it on your plate. Much better than to have a serving plate full of gouged-out rinds!
Photo Credit: South Eats North Blog.
Parmigiano Reggiano Rinds
While edible, these rinds are generally too hard to munch on, but don’t throw them out! Refrigerate or freeze them, and then use them to add flavor to soups and stocks!
What NOT to Eat
Cheese wheels are sometimes coated with various substances to protect it during the aging process. These coverings can be made of cloth, wax, bark, or plastic, and are pulled or peeled off before being eaten. Here are some examples of inedible rinds:
Photo Credit: Cheese.com.
The wax coating on a Gouda? Definitely not.
Photo Credit: OregonLive.com.
The bark binding the circumference of a soft cheese like Harbison? We wouldn’t recommend it!
Photo Credit: FineCheese.co.uk.
The muslin cloth around a farmhouse cheddar? Nope.